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INTERVIEW: Jamie McKelvie
Comics latest cult favourite talks to Matthew Sheret about words, pictures, music, magic and Britpop.
Although we're secretive about it, here at Sound Generator we do like some things that aren't music, especially when they're about music. Last year the comic Phonogram shed new light on the Britpop era, with it's punky tale of music, magic and self-discovery. Jamie McKelvie was the artist of the series, and he talks to Matthew Sheret about that and his new series Suburban Glamour...

Tell our readers a bit about Suburban Glamour.
It's a modern fairy story about a couple of kids, Astrid and Dave, who are growing up in the middle of nowhere and doing the things teenagers normally do like getting into trouble, listening to music, school blahblahblahblah. That until weird things start happening when Astrid's imaginary friends from childhood turn up to tell her something big is about to happen. It all gets weirder from there. That's the short version.

And the long version is out on...
Apparently the long version, Issue 1, is out on October 3rd now, that's the 'projected street date'.

Ah, professional talk. Now, Phonogram was obviously into it's symbolism and message in a big way, is that the same true for Suburban Glamour?
Well, it is, but not quite as heavily as Phonogram. It's not intended to be as deep a book as Phonogram I don't think, hopefully it's just a good story really. But it's about growing up in the middle of nowhere and how you've got all these ideas about what you want to do with your life and anybody in any position of authority, like your parents or teachers, are just telling you that your ideas aren't gonna happen, that you've got to think more realistically about life. It's about how you deal with that, how you grow up from it and learn to make your own decisions.

Was that true of you? Did you always want to be an artist?
I never actually wanted to be a comic artist. I didn't really think about that until I was about 21 while I was at University, but that's a different story. I wanted to do things like be in a band and all that sort of stuff, I used to play drums a lot. When I went to the careers advisor at school they looked at all of my results and whatever and recommended that I go into Police Work, haha. The ideas that I had, the things I wanted to do compared to what everybody around me was telling me I should do were just completely different, and as a result felt really confused about it. I went away to University to do sociology for three years mostly just as a way of putting off real life for another three years.

And then you became a comic book artist...
Yeah, exactly, putting off real life for the rest of my life, haha!

Along with good food and nice things.
Haha, it's not the richest lifestyle, but I get by.

Phonogram was obviously rooted in music, is Suburban Glamour influenced by it too?
It's definitely very much influenced by music, especially the design, the covers and things: I draw inspiration from designs and album artwork and things like that. The characters are all very much into their music: Astrid's walls are all covered in band posters and the kids all play in a band. Music was a big part of my life when I look back and I was trying to reflect that in the kids in the book.

No appearances from famous musicians this time around then?
No, but music's really a big part of understanding the characters: You can tell a lot about them by what they're listening to or the way that they dress. Obviously the way you look as a teenager is largely influenced by the music they're into, certainly for the alternative - I hate using the world 'alternative', but there you go - kids. Music is integral to the characters definitely.

When you were drawing Phonogram did you have to do much to revisit the period?
Not really, no. I know Kieron, when he was writing it, put every single Britpop song he could find on his iPod for the entire time and drove himself crazy. But no, it was something I lived through, it was something I was into at the time in my teenage years, and it's all pretty fresh in my memory I guess, but of course I went back to look at a few things. But it was mostly stuff I knew or remembered, so it was fine.

How about drawing the celebrities? Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker and Luke Haines all amde appearances, along with others. Was that easy to research?
I actually found it kind of difficult to get good likenesses for the various Britpop people, because I threw away my old Selects, Melody Makers and NMEs years ago. And as far as Google Image is concerned, mid-nineties Britain didn't exist. It didn't matter too much though, because we're dealing with, I guess, the idea of certain people rather than the people themselves.

And how did it feel to get the introduction from Luke Haines for the collection?
We always said we wanted one of two people to write the intro to the book - either Luke Haines, or Jarvis Cocker. So we were enormously pleased when Luke agreed to do it. Haines brought something different to the music landscape of the time, something we were both attracted to. I think Gillen recently described him as "an agreeably curmudgeonly presence in pop" and well, what's not to like about that?

Just to wrap up, what's your soundtrack at the moment?
Literally now, I'm listening to a French singer called Yelle, which is kind of electro, a bit hip-hoppy, which a friend of mine got me into about two days ago. That's pretty good. The new Tiger Army album... Ladytron a lot because I went to see them at ULU the other week - they were incredible but the crowd were rubbish, about ten people were dancing and the rest just stood around nodding.

To find out more visit Jamie's Website.
Phonogram is available here and at all good book stores.
To look at Sound Generator's preview gallery of Suburban Glamour, Click Here.
written by on 9/25/2007 11:07:00 AM

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